While we are overwhelmed with political propaganda and endless chatter from the talking heads and spin doctors, there is not enough attention given to three foundational questions that should affect how we vote. The answers to these questions should be applied to every governmental program.
Is it the role of government?
There are so many needs in our nation and we tend to think that each of these needs fall under the purview of the federal government. Yet, the constitution is very specific about the role of the federal government. It’s very design severely limits its scope and protects the rights of the states and the freedom of individuals.
If we were sitting on any other governing board for any other organization, the questions of scope and purpose would quickly determine whether or not we focused on an issue. I could fill your computer screen with worthy causes that are not part of the clearly defined responsibilities of our federal government. That gives the states, churches and other agencies amazing freedom to be entrepreneurs in addressing all manner of societal ills. They are much more effective and nimble than a one-size-fits-all, bureaucratic federal approach.
This is not a heartless approach, but simply one that follows the job description. If the role of the federal government needs to be expanded, it can be through the amendment process.
Does it help people?
Sometimes well-meaning federal programs evoke something called Law of Unintended Consequences. Here is an example.
Recently I learned that there was a direct connection between federal housing and transportation policies in the in 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and the decline of the African-American community.
From 1910 to 1960, there was a massive migration to the industrial cities of the north because that is where the jobs were. Centuries of slavery and discrimination contributed to African-Americans having relatively poor education. Economic forces and housing discrimination caused them to locate in the inner city. Yet, in the mid 1950’s, the African-American communities in the nation’s cities, though over-crowded, were relatively healthy and viable.
Then three decades of federal programs changed the dynamic. Urban renewal and highway programs caused many African-American neighborhoods to be razed. Low-income people were re-located into high rise housing projects. Middle to high income people had the means to re-locate in the choice suburban neighborhoods with their Caucasian counterparts.
“What happens when society crams historically oppressed, undereducated, unemployed, and relatively young human beings into high-rise buildings, takes away their leaders, provides them with inferior education, and employment systems, and then pays them not to work?”
– When Helping Hurts, Steve Corbbett and Brian Fikkert p.92
Is it sustainable?
The question is, How will we pay for it over the long-term? If we begin something, if we make a promise to the American people and then one day suddenly say we can’t afford it anymore or must borrow money to support it, our elected officials have failed us. Such behavior in the private sector is illegal. I can guarantee you if that happens, there will be serious social unrest and it will destabilize the very fabric of our nation as is currently the case in Greece.
Yet, the political discussions seem to be about giving more and more government programs to more and more people at a time when the government debt is near one hundred percent of our gross national product. Again, this is not heartless approach, it is simply reality. The only cure is to expand the economy and the job market.
It is going to take a lot of leadership and courage to de-fund unnecessary federal programs and find ways to make those that need to continue sustainable into the future.
Don’t let the political rhetoric trump common sense.
Note: I am not going all political with the site, but I do have some things to get off my chest in the last few days before the election. So, look for one or two more political posts and then more variety. Thanks for reading!